Antoine Griezmann is famously a huge basketball head (though he’s much less well-versed in other aspects of American culture...), so it wasn’t totally surprising when he announced yesterday that he would reveal his long-awaited choice of whether to stay at Atlético Madrid next season or leave for Barcelona via a TV documentary of sorts called “La Decisión.” What is a little more surprising is how Griezmann and his handlers apparently failed to learn the moral of the LeBron Decision story, which is that doing something like that is a terrible idea.
In “La Decisión,” which ran on Spanish TV channel Cero, Griezmann revealed that he’d been filming his “should I stay or should I go” decision-making process for months now. Barcelona reportedly had already struck up a personal agreement with Griezmann several months ago, and the brazenness of their confidence that the signing of Grizi was a fait accompli so angered Atlético that the Madrid club reported Barça to FIFA for what they posited was illegal tampering.
For a long time it did appear that the Frenchman was set to leave for Barça, but of late Atleti have made a strong push to try and convince him to stay. The very public will-he-or-won’t-he act weighed heavily on the minds of Atleti fans, which inspired them to boo their team’s star multiple times during the back half of the season. The Atlético fans’ ire even threatened the club’s efforts to keep hold of Griezmann after the home crowd’s boos during the final Atlético match of the season brought the forward to tears on the pitch.
Still, most of the news coming from the Spanish press over the past month or so has leaned toward Griezmann signing a huge new contract with Atlético and staying. This turn in the reports apparently spooked Barça manager Ernesto Valverde, but high-ranking officials at the club sat down with him just last week and assured him that Griezmann was definitely theirs. As Griezmann’s self-imposed deadline of the start of the World Cup to announce his decision neared, it only seemed increasingly less clear what he’d ultimately choose.
And so what better way to overcome the PR debacle your public waffling has caused with both your current team’s fans and those of your potential new one than to jerk everyone around in a televised special? That was Griezmann’s big solution, to finally make the announcement on TV, and boy did it backfire in the most predictable way possible.
Thankfully the English-language Twitter account for Spanish paper AS live-tweeted the show, so we have a good idea of exactly how dumb “La Decisión” was. It doesn’t seem like it was the most cinematic of experiences.
Cero also released some videos and stills from the show. In one, Griezmann can be seen talking on the phone with someone who explains to him the pros and cons of staying and going. In another, his wife tells him her opinion that he should stay because, though he has a better chance of winning the big trophies with Barça than Atleti, if he won something at Atlético he’d go down in club history. In yet another, he discusses how Atlético manager Diego Simeone and team captain Diego Godín both came to visit him at his house because they noticed how down he was after getting booed by fans during that last home game.
Eventually, Griezmann did announce that he was going to stay. In a perfect bit of thematic soundtracking, Grizi’s televised document of unrestrained an oblivious narcissism closed with him stating his intent to stay in Madrid while Drake’s “God’s Plan” played in the background.
Just like with LeBron’s Decision, Griezmann is totally within his rights to do whatever he wants, to play wherever he wants, and to announce his plans to stay or leave in whatever fashion he wants. However, as a player who’s clearly wary of fan enmity, he or someone in his team probably should’ve recognized that there was absolutely zero upside in making this decision in this way. Both Atlético and Barcelona fans were already annoyed at being jerked around for weeks on end while Griezmann teased his impending decision, and turning it into a self-regarding spectacle like this only further frustrates both sides.
That said, Griezmann’s final choice is probably the best one for everyone involved. The Atleti faithful will probably still be bothered by the entire ordeal—in no small part because he did almost the same thing last summer when he ran around talking up a possible move to Manchester United before finally reneging—but once he signs that new longterm deal and starts scoring goals again, they’ll probably get over it and learn to love him again. If he’d made the opposite choice, Atleti fans never would’ve forgiven him for the betrayal and Barça fans would’ve probably tacitly supported him while always regarding him with a touch of skepticism. Personally, then, Griezmann stood to gain more by staying than leaving.
Griezmann sticking around in Madrid is also great news for La Liga itself. It’s never a good thing when one or two teams at the top of a league’s food chain fatten themselves by cannibalizing the competition, so Griezmann staying with Atleti and, crucially, not joining Barcelona is just what those who care about the league’s health would’ve preferred. Barcelona too are a little lucky here, in one way at least. Adding a great forward like Griezmann is always a smart team-building tactic, but he’s not really the ideal type of forward Barcelona should be looking for (they need someone who will run around stretching defenses, not another one who wants to drop deep and play with the ball themselves). The €100 million they would’ve spent to trigger Griezmann’s release clause can now presumably be better spent trying to fix their long-standing midfield problem, though Barcelona’s leaders have an awful track record when it comes to spending money.
Make no mistake though: this still looks bad for Griezmann and Barcelona. On the player’s part, it will take some time for Grizi’s rep to rebound from the bizarre show and the months of indecisiveness that lead up to it. For Barcelona, this is the umpteenth time they’ve been humiliated by being so sure they could sign or keep a player only to eventually fail. Last summer alone had numerous transfer market fiascos, like their failed attempt to sign Marco Verratti, and their supreme confidence that they wouldn’t lose Neymar to PSG right up until the day they did in fact lose Neymar to PSG, and their confidence that they could bend Liverpool to their will by buying Philippe Coutinho in the summer only to be rebuffed in the exact fashion Liverpool promised to rebuff them. If there’s any silver lining here for Griezmann, it’s that while he may have made himself look dumb with “La Decisión,” Barcelona somehow still look even dumber.